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Of Caves and Shell Mounds

Edited by Kenneth C. Carstens and Patty Jo Watson, with contributions from Gail

Publication Year: 1996

Ancient human groups in the Eastern Woodlands of North America were long viewed as homogeneous and stable hunter-gatherers, changing little until the late prehistoric period when Mesoamerican influences were thought to have stimulated important economic and social developments. The authors in this volume offer new, contrary evidence to dispute this earlier assumption, and their studies demonstrate the vigor and complexity of prehistoric peoples in the North American Midwest and Midsouth. These peoples gathered at favored places along midcontinental streams to harvest mussels and other wild foods and to inter their dead in the shell mounds that had resulted from their riverside activities. They created a highly successful, pre-maize agricultural system beginning more than 4,000 years ago, established far-flung trade networks, and explored and mined the world's longest cave—the Mammoth Cave System in Kentucky.

Contributors include:
Kenneth C. Carstens, Cheryl Ann Munson, Guy Prentice, Kenneth B. Tankersley, Philip J. DiBlasi, Mary C. Kennedy, Jan Marie Hemberger, Gail E. Wagner, Christine K. Hensley, Valerie A. Haskins, Nicholas P. Herrmann, Mary Lucas Powell, Cheryl Claassen, David H. Dye, and Patty Jo Watson

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Figures and Tables

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

IN 1989 I organized a symposium for the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Tampa, Florida. The symposium was titled "Twenty-six Years along Kentucky's Green River: Papers in Honor of Patty Jo Watson." Although a participant of the symposium herself, Watson did not know the symposium was being held in her honor until she was seated among other symposium...

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pp. xvii

This manuscript was prepared primarily during Carstens's one-semester sabbatical granted him by Murray State University. Additional funds in support of this project were provided by Peter Whaley, director of Murray State University Committee on Institutional Studies and Research, and by Joe Cartwright, dean of the College of Humanistic Studies. Grants from Washington...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-4

WHETHER IT IS called the Central Kentucky Karst, west-central Kentucky, or the western coalfields of Kentucky, the region under study is archaeologically best known simply for the Green River drainage of Kentucky-and principally for the shell mound and cave sites in the central portion of this...

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2. Toward Building a Culture History of the Mammoth Cave Area

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pp. 5-11

THE CENTRAL KENTUCKY Karst is located primarily in south-central Kentucky's Mississippian Plateau physiographic region. This is an area consisting of deeply bedded limestones and associated karst (including cave) features. The region extends north into Indiana, south into Tennessee, and west to the Kentucky portion of the Cumberland River; it lies south of the western coal field...

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3. Site Distribution Modeling for Mammoth Cave National Park

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pp. 12-32

IN 1989 THE National Park Service concluded a three-year archaeological survey project in Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky. Directed by the author, the project's accomplishments included the discovery of 93 previously unrecorded prehistoric sites and 7 isolated finds, revisitation of 63 previously known sites, hand test excavations at 14 sites, and backhoe excavations...

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4. Prehistoric Mining in the Mammoth Cave System

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pp. 33-39

MORE THAN 100 years of archaeological investigations demonstrate that the Flint-Mammoth Cave system was explored prehistorically. Indeed, Putnam (1875), Young (1910), Nelson (1917), Pond (1935, 1937), and Schwartz (1960a) illustrate a wide range of perishable artifacts associated with prehistoric caving activity. Watson (1966, 1977, 1985b, 1986; Watson, ed., 1974; Watson...

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5. Prehistoric Expressions from the Central Kentucky Karst

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pp. 40-47

IN 1979 A recreational caver exploring a cave in eastern Tennessee found a series of drawings that were immediately recognized as prehistoric mud art. This discovery eventually led to the site's examination by a team of investigators from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and to the description of a previously unknown Mississippian body of art (Faulkner, Deane, and...

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6. Radiocarbon Dates from Salts and Mammoth Caves

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pp. 48-81

THIS CHAPTER FOCUSES on the large, existing sample of radiocarbon dates from two caves in the Flint/Mammoth system, Salts Cave and Mammoth Cave. My purpose is to bring together in one location all the radiocarbon dates and the available information on those dates from these two sites in Mammoth Cave National Park (MCNP) and then to evaluate them. Although all of these...

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7. Managing Kentucky’s Caves

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pp. 82-87

CAVES HAVE LONG been an object of human curiosity, drawing people inexplicably into their dark recesses. There human beings have found shelter (for both the living and the dead), important natural resources, satisfaction for an innate need to explore, secluded and mystical places for ritual, and literary settings. In the first four pursuits, human beings have left behind numerous and varied...

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8. Botanizing along Green River

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pp. 88-93

ONE OF THE hallmarks of Patty Jo Watson and her colleagues' research along Green River has been an interdisciplinary focus on subsistence, particularly the recovery and study of plant remains. Through the years our Green River projects have played a critical role in eastern North American archaeology in three main respects: (1) demonstrating the feasibility and effectiveness...

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9. Lithic Materials from the Read Shell Mound: A Reanalysis of a Works Progress Administration Collection

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pp. 94-106

THE STUDY OF Green River shell middens has been prominent historically in American archaeology. William S. Webb and his associates located 36 shell mounds along Green River in west-central Kentucky and directed the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to excavate 10 of those mounds. The Read Shell Mound, 15Bho (hereafter Bho), was among those excavated...

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10. Shell Mound Bioarchaeology

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pp. 107-118

THE RICH ARCHAEOLOGICAL resources of the Green River drainage in Kentucky have yielded some of the most important collections of human skeletal remains in the southeastern United States. It has been widely acknowledged that excavation of these sites, particularly the large shell middens, was critical in developing our conception of the Archaic tradition in Kentucky...

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11. Health and Disease in the Green River Archaic

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pp. 119-131

HASKINS AND HERRMANN (this volume) reviewed major theoretical and methodological developments over the last century in bioarchaeological analyses of skeletal series representing Archaic period populations from the Green River region in western Kentucky as a prelude to the presentation of their own recent analysis of the Archaic skeletal sample from the Read Shell Mound...

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12. Research Problems with Shells from Green River Shell Matrix Sites

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pp. 132-139

SHELL DEBRIS FOUND in archaeological sites is typically treated as food debris attracting the attention of faunal analysts eager to engage in dietary and environmental reconstruction. In some cases shell is also present in archaeological context as ornaments or tools. Ornaments, ecofacts, and shell objects of unknown role are present in large numbers in the Archaic shell mounds...

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13. Riverine Adaptation in the Midsouth

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pp. 140-158

TRENDS TOWARD SEDENTISM and increasing cultural complexity have been well documented in the Midsouth for Late Holocene (5000-2500 B.P.) hunters and gatherers (Brose 1979; Goad 1980), but key features of this adaptation, such as multiseasonal base camps, semipermanent habitations, multiregional exchange networks, and specialized plant gathering, are evident as early as the...

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14. Of Caves and Shell Mounds in West-Central Kentucky

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pp. 159-164

MY INVOLVEMENT WITH cave archaeology began in the summer of 1955 when I married a caver-Red Watson-who became a founding member of the Cave Research Foundation (CRF), the governing body of which encouraged me to initiate investigations in Salts Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, in the early 1960s (even though I was specializing in Old World prehistory...


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pp. 165-198


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pp. 199-202


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pp. 203-209

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383428
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817308056

Page Count: 230
Publication Year: 1996

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Subject Headings

  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Kentucky -- Green River Region (River) -- Congresses.
  • Caves -- Kentucky -- Green River Region (River) -- Surveying -- Congresses.
  • Indians of North America -- Kentucky -- Green River Region (River) -- Antiquities -- Congresses.
  • Kitchen-middens -- Kentucky -- Green River Region (River) -- Congresses.
  • Watson, Patty Jo, 1932- -- Congresses.
  • Big Bend Sites (Ky.) -- Congresses.
  • Mammoth Cave National Park (Ky.) -- Congresses.
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